Little Big Man
June 24, 2018
David and Goliath is one of the best-known stories from the Bible. Children like it because one of their own is the hero. Unfortunately, adults like it because it has the feel of a fairy tale. It is a story of the good guy winning against heavy odds.
To write off the story as an odds beater is to miss the point, or rather, several points, the most important being that God provided the victory. But this is primarily a story about David replacing Saul. If we read all 31 chapters of 1 Samuel, we see the numerous events surrounding the long decline and fall of King Saul. The Goliath story is but the first of many to show David is God’s chosen, while Saul descends into near madness until he and his sons die in battle with the Philistines.
As we read last week, the Philistines were worldly, wealthy, Greeks who wanted to subjugate the hill tribes of the Hebrews. Saul attempted to defeat them but ultimately lost his life trying.
At the end of chapter 16, we see David being brought to King Saul to help him out of his funk. Saul knew that God had abandoned him but did not understand why.
Having read that account (16:14-23), it is a bit jarring when we turn to 17:55-58 where Saul has no idea who David is. There are many attempts to explain this conflict, but I don’t want to deal with that here except to say that non-believers often point to such contradictions as proof that the Bible is not the least bit Holy. At the other extreme are the Christians (rarely Jews) who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible. This kind of issue is hard to explain away.
While I accept that God chose David and that God was behind David’s victory in this reading, we should not forget that ten to twelve-year-old David was capable of killing an armor-clad nine-foot plus soldier with a stone. We moderns would not think of sending a ten-year-old boy into the wilderness to guard a valuable flock of sheep, knowing that bears, lions, and thieves lived there as well.
David was well armed. The shepherd’s sling could generate great speed, sending a stone to a target as small as a sparrow with consistent accuracy. What’s more, the stones chosen by David were small but heavy. With speeds close to those of old musket balls, death was likely.
If someone wants to argue that the stone could not have hit Goliath’s forehead because the bronze helmet would have come down to his eyebrows, let them. The text clearly reads forehead, and there are many ways to explain the helmet.
Something more inexplicable happens next. David runs to Goliath, pulls Goliath’s sword from its sheath, and chops the head from the giant. The difficulty is first, the weight of the sword, then the presence of the shield bearer. The man who could carry the shield of Goliath had to be stronger than most—a small giant himself. Why did he not kill David?
The little details are not important for the real story. Only with God is there victory. David proves himself to be God’s chosen.
Saul begins to worry about this young one taking his throne.
Be righteous and do good.